It’s been just over four years that The Movement Philly has been selling its unique line of clothing on Germantown Avenue right in the heart of Mt. Airy’s central business district.
It’s been just over four years that The Movement Philly has been selling its unique line of clothing on Germantown Avenue right in the heart of Mt. Airy’s central business district, between Mt. Airy and Mt. Pleasant Avenues.
And it’s become incredibly popular.
Every Saturday, owner Aaron Johnson, his wife Nan and their 29-year-old son Damani transport a new batch of exclusive designs from their workshop and warehouse in Washington D.C., where they manufacture all their goods, up to their Mt. Airy store - where they dash around to hang up the merchandise and place it on a clothing rack out on the sidewalk.
And there are always customers waiting for the weekend delivery.
“People stop their cars and run out,” Johnson said.
A gracious, soft-spoken, smiling man, Johnson not only manufactures and markets all the clothing, he also designs it. “My wife and I brainstorm a lot. Sometimes an idea isn’t real until you say it out loud. We are cutting edge. We don’t copy anyone. They copy us,” he said.
Johnson began his career as a screen printer and embroiderer, but was inspired by his wife’s shopping experience to branch out into clothing design.
“I added women’s clothing in response to an issue my wife was having finding jeans that would fit,” he said. “Black women do not easily find clothes that fit them properly. That is why I started this business. For instance, even our sheath dresses are cut with a curve in the hip and our thigh-high socks are cutter fuller at the top.”
Even the elastic in their hand-dyed cotton jersey leggings does not cut into your waist because of Johnson’s foresight.
Every member of the family plays a role in the business including daughter Camara, 25. “She’s our IT person,” Johnson said. IT was especially important during the pandemic when they had to close their retail shop for three months.
The two generations work together to form a team that understands current styles and tastes, and functions efficiently in the digital age.
The brick-and-mortar store is packed with floor-to-ceiling racks of apparel, featuring tie-dyed clothing, T-shirts and sweatshirts with positive messages from cultural heroes including Michelle Obama and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
They sell wrap jackets, butterfly dresses, leggings, skirts, shorts and tops - all reverse hand-dyed which allows the clothing to become brighter, and prevents fading. They also partner with Nubian Stylez, a business that makes the shop’s screen-printed T-shirts and sweatshirts. For shoppers who care about organic textiles, they specialize in cotton and modal, a plant-based fiber blended with cotton known for its softness and comfort. All items are cut to fit curvaceous women.
They also do a significant portion of their business on Facebook.
“Every two weeks during the pandemic, we do a live fashion show on Facebook and get a lot of orders,” Johnson said.
Because his manufacturing is at his DC warehouse, Johnson doesn't have to worry about the international supply chain problems that are plaguing many retailers. He can churn out new designs without delay.
Johnson doesn’t think of his business as something that belongs only to his family, he said. Rather, he thinks of it as being part of a larger community.
“There is a lot of negative energy. I want to put some positive light on things,” he said. “Our manufacturing and shop provides work for many members of the Black community.”
During the week, the Johnson family is busy overseeing manufacturing or opening pop-up shops all over the country, leaving the store in the hands of employees Linda Mapp and Betty Blue, both of Mt. Airy.
He is keenly aware of the cultural change since the start of the Black Lives Movement. “People of all races want to support independent, Black-owned businesses. When they come to The Movement Philly, they are also supporting a Black designer,” he said.
The shop’s name, The Movement, reflects Johnson’s aspirations for the Black community. It also describes the man himself: someone who never stops moving toward his dreams and goals - and that next knockout design.